The most important recruit newly hired Colorado coach Tad Boyle will have a chance to land this year is a player already on his roster.
Alec Burks, the Big 12's freshman of the year last season, had publicly campaigned for Colorado to hire assistant Steve McClain after coach Jeff Bzdelik bolted for Wake Forest earlier this month. Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn instead opted to pluck Boyle from Northern Colorado on Monday morning, leaving Burks to decide whether to adjust to a new system next season or transfer.
"We don't feel like he's ready to go to the NBA yet, so we'll have to evaluate our options," Rodney Perry, Burks' former AAU coach, said by phone Monday morning. "Alec is comfortable at Colorado because he has been there a year already. Before we start looking at any other schools, we're going to give the new coach an opportunity to see if Colorado is the best fit."
For Bohn to risk losing Burks and undoing the gradual progress made during Bzdelik's three-year tenure, he must have felt very strongly that Boyle was the appropriate candidate to continue Colorado's rebuilding process. Boyle rebuilt a moribund Northern Colorado program while making the transition from Division II to Division I, taking a team that went 4-24 in his first season in 2006 to a 25-8 record in 2010.
"Tad is the whole package," longtime friend and colleague Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon told The Denver Post. "You've got guys that can recruit and aren't great coaches. And you've got guys that are great coaches but aren't great recruiters. He's great with alumni, booster clubs and all those things you need to do to be successful. He started in the business world and switched to the basketball world. He knows how to do it all. I think he is as well-rounded as there is out there."
Boyle will have to win over Colorado's current and former players, several of whom were vocal in support of McClain as the Buffaloes' next coach.
"I'm going to stay with McClain," Burks told the Boulder Daily Camera last week. "If McClain isn't here, I don't know. It's still all up in the air right now. I'm just going to go about my business until all this is final."
Burks averaged 17.1 points and shot 53.8 percent from the field as a freshman at Colorado. He could potentially turn pro after next season if he remains in Boulder, but Perry said the 6-foot-6 guard is willing to sit out a year, hit the weightroom hard and delay the process a year if he decides Colorado is no longer the best fit.
What Burks liked most about McClain is that he would have continued to run the sped-up Princeton offense Bzdelik installed at Colorado. The Missouri native initially chose Colorado over Kansas State because he liked Bzdelik's system and he had the opportunity to play immediately.
"Colorado's offensive system was tailor-made for him because it was what he was accustomed to," Perry said. "He was also used to playing some matchup zone on defense because that's what we played here. Now we've got to find out the system that the new coach runs and go from there."